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‘Soil quality’ encompasses the physical, chemical and biological properties of soil. These properties determine the ability of the soil to perform a variety of functions indicative of a healthy soil.
Ultimately, these processes in combination will allow the whole ecosystem to function in a sustainable manner. For urban greenspace to be sustainable, the soil quality must be able to support both soil communities and vegetation. The presence of greenspace can serve to improve soil quality over time.
Greenspace is often established on previously disturbed soils, such as on former industrial land. These soils are often of poor quality, with low organic matter content and poor structure, sometimes containing contaminants that may limit ecosystem functioning. The creation of greenspace, often in combination with ground preparation (for example to reduce soil compaction) and the incorporation of soil amendments will allow the development of healthy soils over time. This achieved by:
The importance of soil quality is recognised by the UK Government, and a Soil Strategy (PDF-508K) for England has been produced by Defra. This strategy specifically mentions the role of urban greenspace in protecting soils in the built environment.
Greenspaces affect soil quality in urban areas in three main ways.
These processes occur through natural soil development, or as a result of good management practices.
van Herwijnen, R. and Hutchings, T. (2006). Laboratory Analysis and Soils and Spoils (PDF-294K). Best Practice Guidance for Land Regeneration, BPG Note 2. Forest Research, Farnham.
Foot, K. and Sinnett, D. (2006). Imported Soil or Soil-Forming Materials Placement (PDF-190K). Best Practice Guidance for Land Regeneration, BPG Note 5. Forest Research, Farnham.
Forest Research has extensive experience of conducting soil surveys and providing management options for soil creation and protection. We provide advice and recommendations on the sustainable management of soils and the use of soil amendments.
Forest Research has a long track record in conducting research on the establishment of greenspace on a variety of soil types, including the effects of soil quality on tree survival and growth, and of the use of fertilisers, soil amendments and pesticides on soil quality.
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